CORNWALL, Ontario - It was standing-room only at city hall Monday night, as angry homeowners flooded the council chambers to voice concern about the inability of the municipal wastewater system to deal with massive rainfall.
Nearly 200 residents have signed a petition to demand action by the city, and several dozen greeted councillors during Monday's meeting.
These same homeowners have seen basements flooded and tens of thousands of dollars in damage to their homes - most recently during a storm last month which dumped 66 mm of rain in just two hours on July 7.
"My basement was a complete write-off," said Claude Jasmin, a homeowner who organized the petition, who added his final bill could hit $40,000, because his wife operates a daycare out of their home. "It has nothing to do with the foundation or the home. It's the sewage from the road."
City councillors have been getting an earful from residents, and many suggest something needs to be done now.
"This requires immediate attention...the residents deserve that," said Coun. Maurice Dupelle.
But it could be the fall at the earliest before the city moves on the issue.
Jasmin suggested the fact that his neigbourhood has just one sewer line - as opposed to another neighbourhoods in the city that also have a separate storm line - plays a role in adding to the flood threat.
"I'm not pretending to be an engineer, but it only makes sense if you're going to have everything in one pipe, there could be problems," he said.
City CAO Norm Levac said this fall the city may begin to address that issue.
"There are some projects that have been out to tender that have been awarded and we plan on having more of these sewer separation-type projects," said Levac, adding an open house is being planned to ensure residents can meet with city officials to voice concerns and gather knowledge.
But ultimately city council will have to free up some money so that capital improvements can be made to the wastewater system.
"We recognize the importance and the urgency of this situarion," said John St. Marseille, the city's general manager of infrastructure. "We've been working very diligently...to identify the cause and the causes that have occured. It was certainly unprecedented."
In June alone there was more than 200 mm of rain, while the average is closer to 88.
It's the second time since 2010 that homeowners like Jasmin have faced a flood. Three years ago another major rainstorm saw basements getting flooded out.
Jasmin has installed a $2,300 backwater valve on his sewer line, but now faces the prospect of having to go with a high-risk insurance company, as his existing provider has cut him off.
He suggested other homeowners in the city face the same predicament.